Why newborn babies sleep so much

Eat, sleep, repeat. It seems newborn babies don’t do much more than that. Midwife Pippa Hime looks at why babies sleep so much and why it is so important to let sleeping babes lie.


Sleep seems to elude most new parents. On the flip side, newborn babies seem to sleep almost all the time. Eat until you are sleepy and sleep until you are hungry. Add a little nappy changing and winding to the mix and that is pretty much it for the newborn stage. In fact, newborn babies sleep between 14 to 18 hours a day.

This may sound like plenty sleep, but remember babies sleep in two to three hour bursts, waking to feed every three to four hours. A newborn baby’s sleep cycle is around 45 minutes. If a baby is comfortable and satisfied, it will link these sleep cycles to sleep for longer periods. Some babies do this with ease while others need a little more settling.

Babies also tend to mix up their day and nights leaving parents up all night and watching baby sleep all day. Babies are still developing their own circadian rhythm, mastering that night is for sleep and day is for play. This all improves as they start to produce adequate levels of melatonin – your happy sleep hormone which signals sleep time once the sun goes down.

ALSO SEE: 6 secrets of newborn sleep

What can I do to promote good sleep for my newborn?

Leave him to sleep. Your newborn will find his own routine at which point sleep will start to fall into place. Don’t try too hard to box him into a routine. In general, newborn babies work in three to four hour cycles to begin with. They wake, feed and settle back to sleep. This should not take more than 45 minutes to an hour. They should then sleep for an hour or two before walking again to start the cycle all over. Try to create a calm, warm and peaceful sleep space for your baby.

Why does my baby sleep so much?

Most simply it’s their job to grow! In order to grow at the rapid rate they do, they need to sleep. Growth hormone is secreted while they slumber ensuring adequate physical development. They often sleep more over periods of growth spurts, typically seen around three weeks, six weeks and three months.

ALSO SEE: How to spot the signs of a growth spurt

Your baby’s neurological system (brain) also develops rapidly in the first few years of life and needs adequate amounts of sleep to do this. Think of your baby’s brain archiving and filing all the sensory input it has been exposed to over the course of the day while he sleeps. It’s no wonder new babies often get restless and don’t sleep as well when we over stimulate them.

Sleep keeps your baby calm and happy. If your baby is not getting enough restful, undisturbed sleep, he may be fussier and crankier. This impacts on his feeding and general temperament.

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